Horse Show Safety

By:  Larissa Cox, M.Sc. Equine Science

Yes, it’s this time of year again when the show season is in full swing.  Excitement is in the air as we practice at home in preparation of show day.  Even on the best of days, with the most experienced horses and people, something can go wrong so it’s always best to be prepared.  Just realize that every horse and every exhibitor has a “first show” and that not everyone is experienced or competent, so patience and consideration is a key at every show!

Below, are several ways that you can prepare yourself for the anxiety of showing!  Showing is stressful for all concerned.  The horses can be tense.  The riders can be tense.  Parents can be tense.  The show staff, generally volunteers, can be tense and at times inexperienced.  The list goes on.  With all this tension, it stands to reason that neither the horse nor the rider will be at 100% performance.  So, keep in mind that the horse will be performing less than at home and the rider will also be less capable than at home.  It is for this reason alone that it is very important to have a well practiced procedure in place before the show date.  Horse shows are meant to be fun, so with a little thought and practice you can come home showing off that blue ribbon and letting everyone know you had a great, pleasurable time!


  1. Have a check list prepared before leaving for the show:  One for you and one for the horse.  This checklist is always helpful when packing for your show.
  2. Have the necessary health papers prepared in plenty of time of the show.  As this will vary from state to state and show to show, you will need to find out exactly what is required.  Always take photocopies of your documentation with you, just in case the show secretary requires this information when you register as often the show grounds do not have photocopy machines.
  3. If you will be attending a one day show, keep in mind that parking may be an issue.  I have found that, in some cases, the show staff will mark off parking spaces to allow for enough room between trailers however often this is not the case.  If they do not mark off for trailer parking, bring cones or markers with you so you can do this yourself ensuring you have enough room between trailers for the safe handling and tying of your horses.  Pre-inspect your trailer prior to leaving to ensure that when you tie your horse, your trailer will not have any sharp edges where your horse could be injured.  When at the show, hang buckets chest high to the horse and do not leave them on the ground unless they are at least 20 feet away from your horse.  Hay nets should be of the breakable type and should be hung with the main string put through the bottom ring to make it more compact and then hung as high as the horses head in such a way that it will not drop down as it is emptied.   Be discouraged in using large hay nets as it is very difficult to hang a large, full hay net so that it won’t drop down within the reach of your horse’s feet!
  4. At larger, multi-day shows stabling can be an issue as the aisle way is generally used for storage, horse grooming, etc.  It is my opinion that aisles should be considered a public area and viewed as a source of potential liability if one creates a hazard in that area.  The fact that everyone does it, to me does not make it a safe practice and should be discouraged.  Hay should be stored in hay bags keeping the aisle way hay free and stored neatly in front of your stall.  Horses should not be cross tied in the aisle way in front of your stall for grooming as other entrants frequently must pass your horse and all the “stuff” that surrounds that stall, including electrical cords, lawn chairs, horse tack, boxes, and general clutter.  If either your horse, or the cross tied horse becomes upset, this can be a problem.  Grooming, tacking-up etc can be done in the stall and not in the aisle way.
  5. Where and how to tack-up and un-tack at a horse show is a procedure in itself.  Again, tacking up in the stall is preferable to tacking up in the aisle.
    Tacking up your horse at your trailer presents a different set of issues as there is a risk of your horse becoming loose.  At every show I have attended, there  have been multiple announcements of loose horses.  This, I believe,  generally relates to the method of tying and managing your horse when changing from being tied to being tacked.  The most important thing to remember is that your horse must never be out of your control.  While we may not want to fasten the halter around the horse’s neck while he is still tied, we don't want the horse loose, so it is better to untie the rope but leave something around the horse’s neck.  This will lessen the possibility of your horse getting away.  Having two people who both know what they are doing and have practiced this routine is a big help at the show.
  6. Warm up arenas to me, are the most dangerous place of any show.  Trying to ride safely in the warm-up ring with other nervous, pre-occupied riders can be difficult.  Some shows have warm-up facilities for novice riders and you should find out when you register for the show the warm-up facility and procedures.  If there is an unsafe practice being used in the warm-up arena, please do not hesitate to inform show management.
  7. When at the show, you should enter one level below of what you are working on at home.  For example,  if you are training Second Level dressage at home, you should enter at First Level at the show as this will give you the confidence you need to perform.  Arrive at the gate ready and in order before your ride time.
  8. At all the shows I have attended, I always attempt to find the sponsor of my class and either send them a note or personally say “thank you.”  I prepare my Thank You cards at home and always take them with me to each show.  If I cannot find the sponsor to personally thank them, I leave them my Thank You Note in the show office.  We need community support of our sport and we should let those who sponsor our classes know that we appreciate their sponsorship.

Good luck and happy showing!   - Larissa

Thank you Tack and Talk readers for your general comments and emails on my article, Horse Show Safety.

A number of you requested more information on the Check List and Thank you Cards.  With respect to the Thank You Cards, I give Sponsorship  Thank You Cards with me riding my competition horse at the front, sample below.  As I have 3 horses, I have pre-printed cards with each of the horses.  Remember to personally sign your thank you card also providing the class number or details on your card.

Thank You For Your Sponsorship. Larissa Cox and Rotario

Good luck at competition!  Larissa 🙂

No Comments Yet.

Leave a comment

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.